Sunday, May 07, 2006

RIP, Jean-Francois Revel

On April 30, one of France's few remaining voices of sanity passed away as political philosopher and writer Jean-Francois Revel died at age 82. My first encounter with his work came in 1985. While most of my high school classmates celebrated our graduation by going out and partying, I went out and bought a copy of Revel's How Democracies Perish (yes, I was a geek even then). I found it a powerful and persuasive essay on the West's decadence in the face of the Soviet threat. Thankfully, the leadership of Ronald Reagan, the courage of Eastern European freedom fighters such as Lech Walesa, and the ideological bankruptcy of Soviet Communism were enough to prove Revel's pessimism wrong.

In the wake of 9/11, Revel returned to prominence as one of a brave few among French intellectuals who resisted their country's growing tide of anti-Americanism. His 2003 work Anti-Americanism is a superb study of this long and inglorious phenomenon, and should be required reading for anyone who believes that French anti-Americanism emerged from nowhere with the coming of George W. Bush.

For more on Revel's long and distinguished career as a public intellectual, see Stephen Schwartz's piece for the Weekly Standard. Revel will be missed, and I offer my condolences to his family and friends.


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